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60-Second Earth

Should the Media Pay for Nature Conservation?

Given the profits made from filming the natural world, can a scheme be worked out to pay for this ecosystem service? David Biello reports

Entire television channels broadcast the wonders of the natural world. To gain viewers and sell ads, they rely on lions hauling down zebras, aerial tracking shots of the icy grandeur of Antarctica or more prosaic film of a bear ambling through the woods. So should the media pay for nature conservation?

That's the question four British scientists asked, seriously, in a recent issue of the journal Science. Given the success of channels like Animal Planet, shows like Planet Earth and even films like March of the Penguins, big media makes big money from nature. Do they then have an obligation to re-invest some of their profit on the nature that provided the "ecosystem service" of existing to be filmed?

The researchers suggest setting up trusts that would hold payments from media companies on a per viewer or per DVD basis. The trusts would then invest in preserving the natural world, though selecting trustworthy trustees might prove a challenge.

Of course, that means we viewers would have to pay more to watch African wild dogs roaming free through Botswana. But wouldn't it feel good to know that just by watching a show about nature you are also helping to conserve it?

—David Biello

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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